For the last seven years, Mindanaoan acitivist Jun Aparece has given great service to PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. as a partner and consultant. To our shared tasks of grassroots organizing, rallying Mindanaoan communities for anti-war demonstrations, and broadcasting the cries of war-weary Mindanaoan civilians to their countrymen throughout the Philippines and to lawmakers in Manila, Aparece brings a lifetime of operational know-how, an expert’s command of Filipino political history, and a passionate devotion to the cause of peace and justice in the Philippines.
Over the course of Jun’s long career as an activist and organizer, beginning with the political awakening of his university days during the brutal Marcos regime, he has gained firsthand experience with both of the Philippines’ two major rebel movements: The People’s War of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), and the Moro effort to create an autonomous homeland in the southern islands. Anyone who seeks to address and alleviate the causes of armed conflict in the Philippines must understand the grievances, aspirations, and histories of both of these movements, and Jun’s story offers PeaceBuilders a unique and valuable perspective on these matters. His personal history is an especially compelling one, filled with peril and covert activities during the darkest days of the Republic. And finally, Jun’s methods and motives affirm what we at PeaceBuilders strongly believe: That political campaigning can be Christian mission.
From the start, Jun has viewed his political activism as a ministry. In his fourth year of high school at John Bosco School in Bislig, Surigao del Sur, he experienced a deepening of his Christian faith through participation in Foursquare Bible study groups. He considered joining the clergy. But the next year, at the Iligan campus of Mindanao State University (MSU), as Jun was drawn into the National Democratic Front’s world of underground activism, he realized that the ranks of the NDF (also called “the Movement”) were filled with priests and pastors. They were, in the leftist rhetoric, “serving with the People” and ministering through activism. Jun decided that, in his personal ministry, he would bypass the seminary and go straight to work with the People.
It was from his professors at MSU in the early ’80s that Jun received his first political indoctrination. Some of these professors were veterans of the First Quarter Storm, the CPP’s revolutionary campaigns of the 70’s. They introduced the students to Marxist-Leninist-Maoist political theory. “I was politicized,” he told me, “and I became aware of the human rights situation at that time.” Jun learned that under Marcos’ decades-long dictatorship all the institutions of Philippine society had become corrupted. The congress and judiciary functioned only to rubberstamp Marcos’ decrees. The military and police forces had been harnessed by the tyrant for the suppression of his opponents, and large sections of the middle class, as well as entire church denominations remained supportive of Marcos’ government. Hoping to learn the root causes of his nation’s plight, Jun switched from engineering to a political science major. Also, he began attending NDF rallies.
Attending the student activist rallies and supporting labor strikes and picket lines drew Jun deeper into the Movement. His immersion with the People’s struggle did more than his professors’ indoctrinations to convince him that the Movement’s cause was just. The comrades recognized Jun’s oratory gifts, and he was often asked to give speeches at the rallies. After one rally, the comrades approached Jun with a proposition. “We don’t want to leave you behind,” they told him. “Just answer us one question: What do you think about the New People’s Army?”
The New People’s Army (NPA) was then, as it remains today, the military arm of the CPP. While the Party wages its People’s War through propaganda campaigns for the hearts and minds of Filipinos and by mobilizing its supporters in anti-government strikes and protests, the NPA engages the Philippine government’s military and police forces in guerilla warfare for control of the rural areas. In order to gauge Jun’s commitment to revolution, the comrades wanted to hear his affirmation of support for the armed struggle as well as for the war of hearts and minds. “I think the NPA are good people,” he answered them. So they decided to induct him into the national underground communist youth federation known as the Kabataang Makabayan. At a secret meeting in the house of one of the comrades, Jun was ushered into the brotherhood with a sword ceremony, a prayer, and an oath to support the revolution.
Recognizing Jun’s dedication as a hardline revolutionary, the youth organ of the Mindanao CPP decided to make Jun the chairman of the MSU Iligan chapter of an aboveground sectorial organization which shares the advocacy and ideology of the National Democratic Front, and they also asked him to chair a Mindanao-wide meeting of like-minded NDF-organized groups held in Cagayan de Oro in ’85.
But Jun felt that his first duty was to the ongoing student strike at the MSU Iligan campus. In response to a recent hike in tuition, Jun and his activist comrades had organized a moving barricade of the campus gates, effectively shutting down the university until the administration relented, as they eventually did. His photo made the front page of Malaya newspaper when he leapt onto the bumper of a police vehicle that tried to roll through the picket line.
Soon after this, the CPP-NDF transferred him to the Labor Center serving the United Workers of Lanao. At the Labor Center, “I was in charge of education, research, propaganda, and mobilization.” He also helped the workers plan and execute strikes.
But not long after Jun began this work, the Labor Center suddenly closed. Its lifelines to the NDF had been severed as a consequence of the greatest series of catastrophes ever to befall the Movement: the anti-infiltrator paranoia, the Deep Penetrating Agent hunts, and the bloody internal purge of the mid-‘80s.
In the coming installments of Jun’s biography: the tragedy of the Purge; the boycott of the ’86 snap elections; the EDSA Revolution; the Movement derailed; the Moro Nationist students; campaigning for peace in Mindanao.